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Public Citizen: Koch Industries v. John Does (Youth for Climate Change)

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By FZ - Posted on 09 May 2011

Topic(s): Internet Free Speech - Right To Speak Anonymously

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Description:
Through this lawsuit, Koch Industries seeks to unmask the identities of our clients-environmental activists who used an Internet spoof to bring public attention to Koch's controversial role in bankrolling climate-change denial. Our clients created a press release purporting to announce a decision by Koch to stop funding organizations that deny the scientific consensus on climate change, and posted the release on a website (www.koch-inc.com) designed to look like Koch's. Although the site was up for only a few hours-and not a single reporter was actually fooled by the spoof-it succeeded in drawing additional media attention to Koch's political activities. Koch was not amused. It filed this lawsuit and, without attempting to provide the defendants with notice, sought to expose their identities by obtaining subpoenas directed to the company that hosted the website. Although this case arises out of a harmless prank, it raises serious constitutional issues. We contend that Koch's subpoenas violate our clients First Amendment rights to anonymous speech and that the claims asserted in Koch's lawsuit (for trademark infringement, cybersquatting, computer hacking, and breach of contract) are groundless attempts to stifle political speech.

On May 9, 2011, the court dismissed Koch Industries’ lawsuit in its entirety, quashed the subpoenas, and issued an order barring Koch from using or disclosing any identifying information it may have obtained about our clients.

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